Century-old John Lewis and Partners is not a brand many in India have shopped from because the UK-based retailer and e-tailer doesn’t operate in the country. But it’s a brand that those in advertising all over the world eagerly follow come Christmas, because it has churned out the most heartwarming emotional adverts over the last 16 years that it has engaged in festive ads.
John Lewis Advert 2011 THE LONG WAIT |
This year’s ad dropped last week and there has been a slight deviation from the tearjerkers of the past. But it retains its oft-used kid-meets-unusual friend formula and manages to stand out. The story is of a young boy Alfie who buys a seed that promises to help him grow the world’s best Christmas tree. It turns out to be a rather animated Venus flytrap (Snapper). They become inseparable buddies, but the family drags Snapper out of the house and replaces it with a traditional Christmas tree when the plant gets out of control ripping up decorations and chasing the family dog.
Alfie won’t have any of it. He decides to place his gift near Snapper outside the house, and not near the traditional tree inside the living room. The family follows suit. Snapper happily chomps on each gift to unwrap them in a giffy. The brand’s end message is: ‘Let your traditions grow’.
John Lewis Advert 2023 |
Last year’s Christmas film from the brand was titled ‘The Beginner’ and featured a foster dad preparing to welcome a child from a care home by learning to skateboard from scratch, ending up injured in the process.
John Lewis - The Beginner (2022)
“John Lewis is one brand that definitely comes to mind,” says Arun Iyer, Founding Partner at Spring Marketing Capital, when asked to name his one pick of global festive adverts. Zeroing in on one from all of John Lewis’ festive work was an admitted challenge for creative leaders we spoke with for this feature, and understandably so.
Among the many gems from John Lewis that will remain fresh in adland’s memory are ‘Monty the Penguin’ (2014) and ‘Unexpected Guest’ from 2021.
John Lewis - Monty the Penguin (2014)
John Lewis - Unexpected Guest (2021)
Here’s what some of the top creative leaders named as their picks, unprompted. All but one of them picked John Lewis.
Titus Upputuru, Founder, The Titus Upputuru Company
Titus Upputuru, Founder, The Titus Upputuru Company |
I am not sure if it is the greatest, but this is what comes to my mind as I think of all the good festive campaigns in the past. I really loved the John Lewis Christmas advert featuring Elton John where it shows his entire life in a flashback and shows in the end the gift that his mother had given him.
John Lewis - The Boy and the Piano (2018)
The emotional graph is wonderful, and the emotion is universal. It is also very well produced and the VFX does not look like VFX.
The line at the end ‘Some gifts are more than just a gift’ is so simple yet so insightful.
Rajesh Ramaswamy (RamSam), Co-founder, The Script Room
Rajesh Ramaswamy (RamSam), Co-founder, The Script Room |
There are so many that come to mind but for me it has to be John Lewis’ ‘Gifts you can’t wait to give’ (The Long Wait).
John Lewis - The Long Wait (2011)
The way it builds up and the simplicity with which it lands. And what an insight. A simple flip of gifts being more about the excitement of the giver. This will always be right up there.
Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous Brands
Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous Brands |
The best ads for the festive season for me have always been the John Lewis Christmas ads. The festive season for people out there (and the advertising industry) is incomplete without a brilliant John Lewis campaign. Tough to choose between them as they're all absolutely gorgeous. The ‘Man on the Moon’, ‘Buster the boxer’, Elton John and so many others. But the one that stands out even amongst the gems is the ad called ‘The Long Wait'.
Familiar terrain of a household getting ready for Christmas and a young boy eagerly and almost annoyingly impatient to get to the gifts and an unexpected heartwarming twist that makes you believe in the goodness in everyone and how giving is always more rewarding than receiving.
These ads told powerful tales of human connection season after season and built incomparable customer love for the brand.
John Lewis - Buster the Boxer (2016)
KV Sridhar, Global Chief Creative Officer, Nihilent, and Founder, HyperCollective
KV Sridhar, Global Chief Creative Officer, Nihilent, and Founder, HyperCollective |
Global festive advertising by and large is during the Christmas season. Several brands have done some good work over the years. Whether it is the Coca Cola trucks in the US, McDonald’s (Santa - Reindeer) work, or John Lewis over many years, there is a lot that comes to mind.
Brand building is about delivering a consistent message year on year interestingly and standing the test of time. While there has been a lot of ‘smart’ and tactical work, one brand that has continued to do festive work that we all look forward to is UK retailer John Lewis.
Again, there have been many fantastic campaigns from the brand and it’s very hard to choose the best from among them. But if I have to pick two that stuck, they will be ‘The Long Wait’ and ‘Man on the Moon’.
John Lewis - Man on the Moon (2015)
It’s the innocence that works here. Whether it is a kid who can’t wait to hand over his Christmas gift or the little girl who believes that her granddad is up there (on the moon), they are delightful stories that underline the power of the festive season and the spirit of goodness.
Pops’ Other Picks
McDonald’s - Santa and Reindeer
Petronas Deepavali - Tabla
Josy Paul, Chairman and COO, BBDO India
Josy Paul, Chairman and COO, BBDO India |
One of the greatest global festive campaign of all time in my view is #OptOutside by REI – a popular retail chain in the US known for their clothes, camping gear and outdoor accessories. #OptOutside was truly audacious. On Black Friday – the day that marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season, the day that America goes crazy buying stuff, the biggest shopping day of the year – REI decided to close all their 143 stores, encouraging everyone and their staff to go outside and have a good time!
REI - OptOutside
The brand was standing up for what they truly believed in – their core values founded in 1938 around their love of the outdoors. It wasn’t about words, it was about action. And it provoked everyone to think about how they spent their time. People loved the brand for this act.
The impact was unprecedented. More than 150 other companies joined REI to close their doors on Black Friday, and hundreds of state parks opened up for free.
#OptOutside earned 6.7 billion media impressions and 1.2 billion social impressions. The campaign created greater relevance for the brand and increased brand love significantly. REI reported a 9.3 pc increase in revenues and a 23 pc uptick in digital sales.
The campaign won multiple Grand Prix at every major award show in the world. It won the biggest recognition at Cannes Lions – The Titanium Grand Prix.